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on you >> and then when they finally -- finally i think it was december 14th they had an op-ed columnist who stressed that this event had been a disaster for the counterculture, but his tone is so priggish and excoriating that it's amazing for anyone to take him seriously. maybe it's wishful thinking maybe the rock fiasco is the last gasp of that echo thing.
there's the stones drumming i just primitive beat as the human mob and it was just another manifestation of the rock drug slobbery cult in which he could say good riddance. and so i use this event in the book to -- 'cause i think it helps us to apprehend the powerful appeal of these underground newspapers for young readers in the 1960s. the tribe reporters lacked any objectivity and they had forcefully written opinions and they grew out of their subculture and the examiner was the flagship of the hearst newspaper chain used this prefabricated template they described this event as another woodstock style concept and they got it completely wrong. these underground newspapers started emerging as i say in the mid-'60s. someone pointed out technically they represent maybe one of the largest and most spontaneous growths in the history of
publishing. in 1965 there were five such newspapers. there was the berkeley barb and the free press there was the east village in new york and there's a paper the fifth estate in detroit and ironically for me and for matt because we went to michigan state the first campus newspaper was called the paper and it was in east lancing. towards the end of 1966 these papers started sprouting up in every region of the country and by the end of the '60s you had literally hundreds maybe 4 or 500 in every city every campus and community with readership that stretched into the millions combined. people sometimes ask how i got interested in the topic. i just got out of my dissertation and i used these newspapers as a source material and i was interested in trying to understand, you know, how it was that the '60s rebellion happened and to me it's perplexing that so many young people in the late 60s became so intensely radical that, you know, to the point where they
not only thought that, you know, united states is not -- is not that the country is moving in a wrong direction but rather that it needs to be completely reformed. that there's something rotten at the core of american society. and by 1969, one surveyed showed something like 1 mon self-identified as radicals. and so to me that's astonishing, you know, historians have put forth lots of obvious explanations to account for this. demographics, the baby boom generation was a large generation. people came of age at a time of unprecedented prosperity. they maybe had a certain sense of their own generational potency and equipped to tackle some of the problems of american public life. there was the civil rights movement which was pivotal and so, obviously, when african-americans were facing down attack dogs and fire heot, dramatize the power of collective action to bring about social change.
people mentioned the culturalness of the cold war era that happened to these bureaucracies and self-described gender roles and then, obviously, the vietnam war had an important radicalizing effect. the fact the war from 1969 onward with the onset were translated into people's alarms and, of course, the draft, you know, was profoundly important. but in addition to all this, historians have found it necessary to look at internal dynamics within the movement to account for its growth and for how it became so stylized. and, you know, until recently the most widely read work in the '60s was done by people who had lived through the -- who had lived through the 60s themselves. and by some coincidence a lot of these scholars had also been members of students for a democratic society or sds which was the largest new left group in the period. and, you know, this is pioneering work that they did. but they tended to, you know,
arguably, you know, write about the '60s reliably on their own perspectives and also writing about sds. they talked from the movement from the elite or top-down perspective. and they left a lot of archival materials at the leadership level or at the national level but those sources aren't super useful if you're trying to understand how the movement developed, you know, at the grassroots level. and so by looking at the 60s, you know, from the perspective of the underground press we can account for all these distortions. these people were fundamentally community newspapers so you get a kind of grassroots and local perspective and also they were just wildly accessible accessible and anybody who wanted to write an article through their underground newspaper. the very phrase, you know,
underground press is a bit of a mismemoer. they were technically illegal, for instance, in world war ii there were people that attacked the nazi newspapers in france and the netherlands and whatnot, you know, those were covert and highly illegal. these were widely available, in fact, i think the underground press moniker because the people who put these together styled themselves as cultural outlaws. but they could be genuinely subversive. in some cases they were -- well, they attacked american culture very sharply and they sometimes championed the revolutionary overthrow of the united states government and so in some cases they encountered an incredible amount of harassment from police and various authorities. although these papers are very critical of capitalism generally someone pointed out that they're a great example of practical free enterprise and so in the 1960 -- until the 1960s, newspapers had to be set in hot type so that was a procedure
that was costly and difficult. and in the early 60s we had the advent of photo offset printing and so it was really easy -- what you would do is you would take a picture of whatever you printed onto a pay stub sheet and it would be reproduced exactly as it was photographed and so suddenly, you know, for this a couple hundred dollars you could print several thousand copies of an 8 or 16-page tabloid and then you could sell them for a dime or 20 cents or whatever it was. in spite of this, a lot of them were jaundiced of profit making and someone did a survey that 78% of these papers reported that they made no property, whatsoever and they weren't very high quality by professional standards and to me maybe that's an unfair, you know, criteria apply. but i'm not really interested in a aesthetic considerations so much in this book.
i'm interested in the way these papers helped to socialize people into the movement and helped to radical lies people and draw people into their fold and gave readers a sense of connection and belonging to the new left. that's the sort of argument that i try to pursue. the failure of daily newspapers contributed in a lot of ways to the success of the underground press. throughout much of the 20th century large cities tended to have, you know, several -- multiple different newspapers. but they became valuable properties and so people who could afford to buy them up and consolidate them did and so cities that used to have many papers would begin to only have 1 or 2 and so in a formally diveers world there's more room for these icon oclass particular newspapers to flourish in the 1960s people thought they were more bland and consensus-based. the corporate structures undergirded these newspapers were looking for sophisticated
trained journalists and the news diets of many americans changed. i think this helps to explain why -- one of the reasons why these underground newspapers were so attractive to young people. underground journalists claim a privilege. they had a sense that only those people who were deeply implicated in the new left rebellion could really understand what it was like. that you had to be sort of in the rock or drug or in the protest culture in order to know what was going on and if you were a salary journalist who, would in the suburbs then you somehow just weren't getting it at some level. they could also be fiercely polemical these newspapers. they sometimes pointed out that they, you know, did not corner the market on highly ideological agendas. there's a letter in here that i like that was written by allen ginsburg. in 1970 allen ginsburg was a member of the their mission wao
protect the free speech rights of writers, i guess, everywhere. and he was upset about the harassment that these underground newspapers were facing. a guy named tomming fleming who was the head of the pan american center to release the statement to condemning on attempts to condemn the newspapers. he thought they were inflammatory but he thought they deserved the same free speech protections that everyone deserves. and allen ginsburg said he was grateful for the statement but he said i would have taken exception were it my place to the adjective "inflametory" to wholesale new literature outside of the ideology displayed in "readers digest" with its cold war theory or odd language about dope fiends or the "new york daily news" which an editorial atom-bombing china counting 200 million persons as an estimate
as reasonable or for that matter the "new york times" whose business as usual through the planetary echo crisis dolies my heart of arson. be that as it may, it's a minor quickly with your text merely to say that i find above-ground language almost as inflammatory as i fund new left underground rhetoric as i would with wc fields. that was allen ginsburg in 1970. and then finally these papers, you know, they brought people into the movement's fold. they could shore up people's political participation. they welcomed rank-and-file potential and they were in old-fashioned rubbing raking and i showed these newspapers outperformed established journalism like the "new york post" and they became visible in some communities they became cause celeb and their offices
hippy travellers and activists lly earn a living by enclaves, selling these newspapers on street corners, at rallies and whatnot. and another big theme in the book is the fact they encountered a tremendous amount of harassment. and i would point out that, you know, it is true that salacious material was very common place in these newspapers and so they were shy to use dirty words. a key feature of a lot of these papers was underground comics and they spell comics with an x to suggest that these papers were x-rated maybe or suitable, you know, adult readership. i think they're mostly aimed at teenage boys, frankly, but they could be offensive. they had image of sexual mutilation and mom it nation and mutilation they were flagrantly
offensive sometimes and that was the point especially in the late '60s and early '70s, nudity became more common place in these papers, pictures of naked and half naked women were common place and it's easy to see how average citizens could be troubled by this material and it was constitutionally protected and the supreme court was very clear on this. in order to be declared legally obscene, work has to be -- it has to appeal to prurient interests and it has to affront community standards and utterly without redeeming social value and all these papers -- first of all they were so widely read it was hard to suggest that, you know, violated community standards in every case but they were also, you know, in the broadest sense -- they were social and political papers. they dealt with social and political concerns and so they ought to have been immune from these obscenity charges and that was not the case. i would say that, you know, obscenity and harassment of street vendors was the main tactic that people tried to use to stifle these newspapers.
i could not find a single example of a paper that had an obscenity conviction that was upheld. you could see how this could be distracting to papers and also busting people for loitering when they were standing on street corners and selling the papers and whatnot. sometimes these papers were victims of vigilante groups, that great speckled bertie mentioned they had someone who fire bombed their paper in san diego there was, you know, a long series of attacks on the ground ground papers there. lowell bergman the guy from 60 minutes and front line was an underground journalist in this period in san diego and later, you know, some guy affiliated with the minute men, this right wing men was involved in this and they had help from the police. the fbi was heavily involved in the underground papers and they kept data on their publishers and their printers. here in san francisco, there's an fbi memo surfaced where this bureau functionary had the idea, you know, that a lot of these underground papers were getting advertisements from large record companies like columbia and
capital and whatnot and he suggested that these companies should be approached and told not to advertise in the underground press and very suddenly the bottom dropped out from a lot of these papers and they started adding with "rolling stone" magazine which is interesting it was not an underground newspaper. but rolling stone would stick to the apolitical elements of the rebellion but it was critical of new left militants and the weather underground and the yippies and a lot of that. and they drew a lot of record advertising and then, frankly, the fbi had some schemes that seemed out of a james bond novel. they started to short-lived underground newspapers of their own. they were counterfeit papers and they were meant to promote moderate viewpoints as opposed to radical ones. and then someone had the idea, you know, a chemical, a foulell
spray this chemical on the newspapers before they were unbundled and it's true. it took a real toll on these newspapers. there are other reasons for the decline of the underground press. i mentioned before as they functioned as decentralized collectives and so that meant that everyone who worked in the paper add say in how they should operate or be run. a person could get off on a bus and show up in town and say he's part of the underground paper now and he would as much say in its editorial decisions as someone who had been there a long time. people found these editorial structures alienating, you know, over the long haul. sometimes these papers could be exceedingly coarse even by the countercultures loose standards of civility and impropriety. they could be anger and inflametory and give people to turn their noses at the moment. and, frankly, a lot of these papers mirrored the, you know,
the sexism and the home phobia that we see -- we saw in the dominant culture in this period and i give these activists a lot of credit for their moral stance on racism and the vietnam war. by today's cultural, you know, politics, you know, by our today's standards they would fall short in some areas as well so they deprived themselves from talent and women and gays sometimes and when radical feminism and the gay liberation movement started happening in the late '60s they gave people, you know, good reason to look out for new ideological territory and so all those reasons helped to account the decline of these papers and then as i talk about this, i know it sounds like the book is heavily analytical and i do try to get these points in. you know, one of the things i really try to do in this book is also tell some great stories and so there's a narrative -- there's a narrative component to this book as well. i mean, it literally has elements of rock and drugs and sex and violence. it should be a bestseller for that reason here in this estate
this there's some funny characters. there's one guy who was just known as an excellent scam artist and he was able to put jay gould to shame in the way he could move money and rip off people and they would run into factions and disputes and there would befl as i say became viol. one of the legendary figures in the underground press was also one of the biggest drug dealers in new york and he would smuggle marijuana by the ton. one of the papers in boston was founded by a guy name mel lyman and he was sort of a bizarre mystical acid hair and he turned his paper to the bona fide cult where people were not allowed to leave. a lot of these underground press meetings degenerated into fiascoes. there's two suicides in the book i just want to mention there's a story-telling component to the book as well. you know, whenever i look at a new book, you know, sometimes the first thing i'll do is i'll
look sense of the range of topics that are covered. i think there's some humorous suspects. i write about homoeroticism, hooten nanny, and over at the l's you have lenin vladimir and lennon john side-by-side. and over in s you've got -- well, you've got sex, the sex pistols and sexism. you know, there's a wide range, you know, of topics that i explore. it's only been out, you know -- it's been in stores for a few weeks but the fishing publication date was just about a week ago. and i think it's done well. it's gotten one very negative interview from the "wall street journal" but my publicist assures me i have at least one review to gate piece in "wall s
journal." if anyone wants to ask me about why the "wall street journal" article was fun, let me know. [inaudible] >> thank you. [applause] [laughter] >> can you tell us about the "wall street journal" incident? >> sure. how much time do we have? [laughter] >> there's different kind of bad reviews. you can get a bad review that was unappreciative of the work you've done and you can get a bad review that mischaracterizes that your reviews and say you do things that you don't do and do things that you do and it was both. it was written by a guy named russ smith. he's a person actually -- i've admired a lot of his work. he was a founder of a couple -- i guess, three alternative
newspapers and so i make a distinction in the between the underground book in the '60s and the free alternative weeklies in vending boxes and he said i celebrate these decentralized structures and i don't criticize these and they were not interested on "rolling stone" magazine and they were coming down hard on underground newspapers and it wasn't sufficiently explored. and he said i gave short shrift to the village voice and he went on to say "the village voice" was very pioneering and very influential to the alternative press and he mentioned a guy named dan wolf who's one of the early editors who had a light editorial hand and gave his readers a lot of things and it was important. he didn't say anything in the review that i didn't say myself. so i just -- i thought it was
lazy. i thought it was lazy. [inaudible] >> did who read what? >> did the "wall street journal" read your book. >> yeah, the guy who wrote the review must have read it. i think if you give someone a bad review, that you have to do due diligence. he has more errors in his 800-word review than i have in the book as far as i can tell. >> can you start with the point of view -- >> well -- i don't want to dwell on this too much. [laughter] >> you know, the reviews -- there's a suggestion that he's hostile to the idea that these papers should be critically analyzed. you know, he thinks there's too many footnotes. and i just -- and he thought it was ironically that these newspapers was a freewheeling and cavalier and whatnot and i'm analyzing them carefully as a scholar. but it's a scholarly book in some respects. >> i wanted to ask you one question. one of the things that struck me recently was -- with all of the upset in the middle east, i keep
seeing these newscasters that supposedly erudite people who talk about upsets and all the riots in the streets and invariably at some point in their discussion of it -- they look at the camera and they say imagine if those things happened in the united states. >> uh-huh, uh-huh. >> and you're an expert on the '60s and my question is, don't people remember the 60s? aside from the cliche, don't kids now learn about history in that period? why can that kind of thing be so cavalierly said by somebody that should know better. >> i'm so steeped on research from the '60s it doesn't seem a lot of people don't know a lot about it. the fact that these papers face such terrible suppression from the police and the fbi and everything else, it does surprise me that a lot of people who are protective of free speech rights generally especially in the mainstream press seem to ignore and
overlook the way these newspapers or press. i think our political issues today are reflections of how people feel about the '60s. though clinton said something along these lines which was shrewd. if you take a person today and you ask them if you think there's more harm or good done in the '60s they're likely to be a conservative and republican and unbalanced there was more good or harm you're probably a liberal or a democrat. i think that rings true to my own experience and so i do think, you know, a lot of the cultural politics that, you know, we face today, they have their origins in the '60s. people still fight these battles in the last election and in the 2008 election is fascinating to me to see, you know, bill ayers in the news every day. so i think the '60s still looms large in our politics. >> i was wondering if there were any papers now that you are --
think sort of live up to, you know, the underground ideal. i know i have friends on berkeley on slingshot and they're trying to do independent press and i think a lot of different papers of political stances that maybe people within that group read it. >> right. >> so i'm just curious on your thoughts about the current press. >> i mean, there's a lot more diversity now with the internet. the old cliche that everyone with a laptop and an internet connection has their own press in a sense. it's much more easy for people to put across, you know, dissecting viewpoints nowadays. you know, ironically even though i'm very critical of the way the "new york times" in the '60s tended to, you know, put across kind of mainstream establishment values and sort of failed to acknowledge their own bias, their own bias -- their mainstream bias, i still think there's a place for, you know, daily -- professionally staffed daily newspapers today, maybe more than now than ever.
and so, you know, a paper like the "new york times" and they havairies and people who are professionally trained who try, i think, to the best of their ability -- first of all, they spend a lot of money with bureaus all across the world and they try to figure out what's important and give it the right amount of way to proportion and sometimes they get it wrong. often sometimes i'm sure they do. there's this phenomenon -- people talk about a closure or these information cocoons where people tend to oftentimes just read or consume media that reader rates their own beliefs or what not. i did an experiment a couple months ago, a little longer i guess -- do you remember christine o'donnell that woman who ran for office in delaware. i remember in the middle of the day once i was surfing on the web and it came out that she didn't really understand anything about the first amendment. she didn't know what was in it she didn't know any of the freedoms that were protected and she kind of made a fool of
herself in this debate. and i thought it was interesting and then that night i knew what was going to happen. i went home and i spent 2.5 hours flipping back between msnbc and fox, rachel maddow, bill o'reilly and they showed it over it again and on fox it didn't mention it happened. if you only watched fox you would not know that this big news story broke. so people are, i think, too quick to, you know, find media that -- consume media, you know, that reflects their open subjectivities and i think there's a place for professionally oriented newspapers. amy? >> john, hi. >> hi. >> so one of the things that came up for me while you're talking is idea imaginities by den bic anderson. >> oh, geez. >> sorry to go a little academic
on you where a national collectiveness was created by print culture. that thinking of ourselves as americans happens because we read newspapers that call us that. >> uh-huh. >> and so i'm wondering, how decentralized underground papers helped create a national sense of the movement, the '60s. >> uh-huh. >> and then if the common denominators went beyond rock 'n roll, drugs and so on, particularly then what relevance that collective weness might have had for the groups that you said kind of left. >> uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh. >> lesbian separatists or feminists or what not. >> when i describe them as decentralized i'm talking about the decentralized of newspapers. there's exception like the berkeley barb and the free press were actually run by vehicles in a hierarchical way but all newspapers were in federation of two organizations there's one
called liberation news services which placys a role in the book. they'd send out these news packets to any other newspaper that subscribed to several hundred newspapers and so, you know, people were reprinting a lot of the material, and this lns made the underground press a sight for sort of intermovement communication, you know? and then there was also an organization called the underground press syndicate and what they did was, you know, members of that organization simply sent copies of their papers to every other paper and they had no concern about copyrights or reprint permissions to reprint anything and you could reprohibit whatever you wanted and so that was helpful especially for smaller papers that were in smaller cities or campuses that were away from the pageantry and the ferment, you know, of the big cities, you know, people could still, you know, get a sense of a counterculture that's